Tom Landry said, “football is to Texas what religion is to a priest.” Understanding this sentiment can help you understand why the Aldine Independent School District wants to invoke eminent domain to finalize construction of the $50 million high school football stadium. One lone acre of land, on the outskirts of where the new stadium is being built, is the holdup. The property owner isn’t ready to sell and wants to continue living in his home until he can’t any longer. Aldine ISD trustees want the stadium ready to open in August 2024. Their original request to buy the property was rejected. Should the 78-year-old homeowner lose his home before he’s ready to sell it?
Negotiations continue between the homeowner and Aldine ISD
The homeowner admits that the school district can have his home once he’s ready to move on. He raised his family in this home, so it holds many memories. His daughter is hoping that they can come to an agreement without Aldine ISD having to invoke eminent domain.
The school district gave a statement to a local TV station, stating “We recognize that these are very delicate conversations that balance community needs and individual needs.” Aldine ISD is willing to pay fair market value for the property. The sticking point is when the school acquires the property, which is slated to become part of the parking lot.
What is eminent domain?
In 1215, King John of England signed the Magna Carta which was an agreement between the Crown and rebel barons to limit the power of the King. One key clause was that no man could have his property taken without the lawful judgment of his peers. Although the Magna Carta failed, this protection of property became part of English law. A few hundred years later, a Dutch jurist coined the term eminent domain, which today refers to the government’s right to use land for the good of the people.
Generally, eminent domain is used to take land to make highways, bridges or to install utilities, but it has been invoked by private companies to construct projects that benefit the people at large. Eminent domain gives the government the right to take private property, but the government must also compensate the private owner for the taking of the property.
Who prevails in eminent domain cases?
Despite eminent domain preventing England’s government from acquiring land without due process or compensation, the land in the New World (America) was given to Colonists under a land grant. The Crown could take back the land if they decided to, often without any due process or compensation. When the Bill of Rights was developed, James Madison added the clause to the 5th Amendment, almost as an afterthought to protect landowners in the newly developed United States. The Supreme Court usually sides with the government in eminent domain cases, but the Court also ensures that property owners are justly compensated, which is often the reason negotiations break down in eminent domain cases.
Unfortunately for this Texas homeowner, the school district will most likely win their case under eminent domain. It may take a couple of years for the case to move through the legal system, giving the homeowner more time in his home albeit under stress.